In honor of the late, great Roger Ebert’s recent birthday, Sam is sharing two poems about birth, movies and death. The first poem, Movie Magic, traces the roots of Sam’s film fanaticism, telling the tale of how his mother went into labor with him in a movie theater. The second poemAwake in the Dark, pays tribute to Ebert, the critic who serves as an inspiration to all of us here at Midwest Film Journal. (This piece was published on earlier this year as part of the site’s collection of commemorations marking the fifth anniversary of Ebert’s passing.) 

Movie Magic 

The film flickered,
like the kicking feet inside her.
A baby boy,
galled by The Godfather Part III,
ready to exit the theater
and her womb.

The father wanted to stay
for the climactic scene.
But the light of the projector
was no match for his wife’s eyes.

They rushed to the hospital,
where they met their bundle
of hair as black as Michael Corleone’s.

“Let’s name him Superman!” their elder son said.
“He’ll be Superman one day,
but let’s not pressure him.
Clark will be his middle name
until he can fly.”

Then they took the boy home,
a gift that cut the Oscar season chill.
(He had powers already!)
Now, outside of movie theaters,
they could see that magic was real.

Note: I didn’t watch The Godfather Part III all the way through until last summer. Given all the criticisms surrounding the film, part of me worried that it would put a damper on my birth story. But finally sitting through it felt like something clicking into place in my heart. During the operatic finale, I pictured my mom fidgeting in her seat and my dad snapping back into reality to rush her out of the theater. I felt more connected to my birth story than I ever had before. This anecdote that served as my go-to icebreaker fun fact in film classes suddenly became more vivid and alive. As I wrote in my review of the film: “The best experiences — cinematic or otherwise — fill you with a sense of discovery that makes you feel like a part of your soul is complete, as if you found a puzzle piece you didn’t know was missing.”

As Ebert might say, movies are mile markers on our journey through life. I’m grateful that this film started mine.

Awake in the Dark

We knew he’d be there,
awake in the dark.
Eyes always shifting,
looking for a spark. 

Even though he knew the tricks,
the magic never faded.
Beloved Roger Ebert,
well-versed in film, not jaded. 

He said the familiar
was a crime against our minds.
He taught us to love movies
as escapes from daily grinds. 

Life has unhappy endings
but fun along the way.
Roger’s life was a theater,
one in which he could not stay. 

But he is always with us,
looking down at that big screen,
hoping he makes us grateful
for everything we have seen.